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Crisis escalates as Sudanese ‘resistance’ activists mobilize | News

When conflict broke out in Sudan on April 15, activists from hundreds of communities mobilized to form councils of medics, nurses and engineers across the country.

Their missions were as varied as sheltering displaced people, repairing hospitals and saving lives amidst shelling, gunfire and bombing.

The efforts come from Sudan’s “resistance councils,” community groups that have led Sudan’s democracy movement since 2019.

“Each coordinating committee has scanned working hospitals. Even hospitals that were closed before the war, we’ve done that by providing doctors, fuel and [getting them] Electricity,” said Ahmed Ismat, a spokesman for one of the groups south of the capital, Khartoum.

“What we’re missing right now are supplies – from medicines to first aid kits to gauze. Every community lacks these things,” he added.

At least 413 people have been killed since a bitter power struggle turned into armed clashes between the army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

The violence has prompted aid groups to pause their operations, but resistance committees have tried to fill the void by mobilizing informal networks once used to organize anti-government protests.

In addition to medical services, they coordinated evacuations of besieged civilians and spread anti-war messages, according to analysts, and their efforts have boosted popular support for them.

“The Resistance Council maintains their legitimacy because they do something different than the political elites of this country, which is provide service. All their political work has always been centered around service, and now they’re doing even more during wartime,” said Kholood Khair, founding director of Confluence Advisory, a Khartoum-based think tank.

evacuate civilians

The fighting has shaken downtown Khartoum, leaving many civilians in a dilemma. On social media, hundreds of people said it was too unsafe to leave their homes to seek refuge elsewhere, but also impossible to stay put due to shortages of water, food and electricity.

Zuhair al-Dalee, a member of the East Nile Khartoum Regional Resistance Council, said those desperate to move still relied on the Resistance Council to procure fuel for cars and motorcycles.

“We have an area close to the conflict but there is no gas [to rescue people]. We had to buy them from the black market in order to bring the residents to safer areas. [The committees] are working in unity. People donate to us, buy food for children and do whatever is necessary to help people,” he told Al Jazeera.

A number of WhatsApp groups as well as social media pages and hashtags have also been created to coordinate humanitarian response.

Many people use the hashtag #NotoWar. And publish updates on which roads and alleys are safe from intense conflict.

In the first days of the conflict, the messages sent families south to Gezira state, an area relatively far from the ongoing conflict.Later, the Resistance Committee of Madani City warn People refrained from driving along the Khartoum-Madani road after the sudden clashes there.

Hamid Murtada, a Sudanese analyst and member of the resistance committee, told Al Jazeera: “Neighborhood resistance committees have these coordination mechanisms that they can use to work with each other, enabling them to exchange information and keep our social protection networks active to support civilians. “From his home in Khartoum.

keep neutral

In addition to providing services and escape routes, resistance councils also play a role in maintaining the social cohesion of their communities.

Murtada stressed that activists are urging their communities not to side with the RSF or the military, as both can weaponize racial rhetoric to recruit more fighters.

“Neighborhood Resistance Committees can play a huge role in ensuring that … the military and RSF narratives … do not divide communities,” Murtada said.

“They played an important role in raising voter awareness and supporting initiatives to end the war immediately. What happened after that is a story for another day.”

Resistance committees have come forward with campaigns such as spray-painting anti-war messages on homes and buildings, while forming groups on social media to urge their peers to join in the humanitarian response — not the fight.

Despite heroic efforts, Khair said the resistance council received little support from the Freedom Forces for Change-Central Command (FFC-CC), a power-sharing group with the military in the transitional government ahead of an October 2021 military coup. political party group.

Neither the RSF nor the military provided any support in terrorizing civilians.

Haier told Al Jazeera that much of Sudan relies on resistance councils and that the international community should also engage effectively with them. Still, she predicts that Western officials will still favor political elites and generals when it comes to political decision-making.

“[The global community] make excuses not to deal with [resistance committees] …because they don’t make the effort to understand them. They just know the military, there are people in charge there, people under them,” she said.

“But when you have independent and powerful organizations driving change, you still can’t find a way to get involved. Well, it’s almost criminal.”

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